Daughter number 1 is a performer. She has just finished a run in "Oliver" at the Alhambra in Bradford - fairly serious stuff although her part was relatively minor. I am immensely proud of her and every time she is in a show she grows a little and becomes slightly more confident as she gradually hones her skills.
But this was her third major show in this academic year. Hard work and demanding for her but ridiculously and unbelievably inconvenient for me. Every time she is in a show, she spends at least two months beforehand rehearsing. These rehearsals seem to be on a Friday night or a Sunday afternoon. This means that neither my husband nor I can go out on a Friday night, our night out of choice because it then requires a babysitter for the others whilst we go out to pick her up. And we can't go out as a family on a Sunday because we have to be back for an afternoon rehearsal.
But whilst the inconvenience is one thing, the issue that has been concerning me is the impact on the other children. This last week my entire focus has been, by necessity, on child number 1. But in the same week child number 2 has left primary school - a pretty major event in her life. She has needed and deserved my attention but has really only had what was left. And the little two? Well, they have been pretty much left to their own devices notwithstanding the fact that they are 5 and 6. On top of this dearth of maternal attention, they have had to put up with my being, in turns, either cross or distracted.
I feel inadequate and completely ill equipped to deal with the card that I have dealt myself. How can I possibly give four children the attention that they require? I try to spend some time with each of them individually each day but often I fail. They seem to want a piece of me at exactly the moment that tea needs serving or I am on the phone or am at my wits' end with one of the others. " Not just now." " Just give me a minute." " I just need to...." I wonder if they understand that I am doing my best to fit everything in or whether they just feel let down. I could ask them but fear their answer.
And yet, whilst they can see how the dynamics of the family pan out and where the attention lies at any given moment, they never complain. Is that because their expectations are so low or because they know that the sun will shine on them eventually and they just have to wait their turn? I hope it's the latter because I am trying to make sure that I make things as even as I can. I have a friend with six children. How on earth does she do it? That makes my handful look like a walk in the park.
Child number 1 has been cast in a play which will run for a fortnight in December and has signed up for another two in the new year. I suspect this is how it will be and so the rest of us will have to learn to work round her drive to perform. And in the meantime I will just have to find a few extra hours. Perhaps I can get hold of a time turner like Hermione? Or only sleep four hours a night like Margaret Thatcher? Or resign myself to the fact that I can only do my best and hope that it's enough.